The importance of going digital for businesses
Nov 07, 2013

Almost 200 million new Internet users are expected to come online between 2010 and 2020 in Asean, 91 million from Indonesia alone . The rapidly rising popularity of smartphones in Asia is transforming the way data is being consumed.

The fast pace of digital adoption by consumers in Asia means businesses must likewise move to meet their customers in the digital space, tapping the additional communication channel and wealth of data to build a greater connection with their target audience.

The increasing importance of social media is lending urgency to this shift. With more than 1 billion social media users worldwide, including 256 million in China alone , what used to be powerful “word of mouth” product recommendations have now moved online to a loud-hailer type broadcast to the user’s social network, almost at the speed of thought. Market research company, AYTM, showed that 58 per cent of Facebook users have “liked” a brand, and 39 per cent of Twitter users have tweeted about one.

Another important driver for going digital is to harness the power of big data. Businesses can leverage the large amounts of customer data they already possess and put it to strategic use. Automakers for example have been able to collect and monetize a wealth of data on customer driving habits from the use of GPS devices installed in the cars they sell.

To prepare for the shift to a digital business model, companies need to identify a senior C-level executive to sponsor and drive the process. Leadership is crucial, given the wide scope of the transformation towards a holistic integrated global digital business model with shared digital assets and platforms and an overarching digital approach that supports the business strategy.

A good starting point will be to document and define all current digital projects, mapping them against the key capabilities required to enable the business strategy.

Having the right talent to do the work will be important. Employees at fast moving companies leading the digital charge tend to want different rewards than those at more traditional companies, the differences having less to do with money than with culture, such as the attitudes toward innovation to the quality and flexibility of the work environment. Managers need to be retrained to understand digital metrics and the levers that can be pulled to drive a digital business.

Since digital technology evolves rapidly, Accenture believes that the new business model should allow organisations to think big but start small, using the measure-test-learn technique to enable development through iteration, yielding better results.

Locking in decisions such as platforms, software and providers far in advance will be a mistake. Instead, identify appropriate pilots and apply proof of concept techniques to test different options. Remaining continuously in “beta” mode is what helps digital companies learn quickly and remain agile.

From Accenture’s work with its clients, retailers’ marketing and fulfilment functions have made great strides in moving to unified digital processes. A leading global pharmaceutical company’s vitamins retail website goes beyond just vitamins, it includes expert commentary on nutritional issues to a nutritional diagnostic test. Consumers benefit from obtaining information on personalised nutrition while the company can learn what its customers want based on their inputs and behaviour on the website.

But going digital is more than having a website or a digital sales channel. Virtual simulations and prototyping have been used to great effect by leading consumer products companies, to create, test and optimise packaging, shelving and store designs. Consumer focus groups use the virtual reality centres to assess how participants react to product placement, shapes, colours and designs, using the results to shape consumer expectations, and design and deliver products accordingly.

Companies that effectively embed digitisation into their business model view all processes as potential candidates for digitisation. Being able to deploy solutions quickly at scale will be a key competitive advantage. The ability to innovate, implement and monitor the application of digital solutions throughout the organisation will help such enterprises stay at the forefront of the digital revolution.

By Won-Joon Lee
Managing Director-Automotive, Industrial Equipment, Infrastructure and Transportation (AIIT), Asia-Pacific
Business Process Outsourcing Lead-Products, Asia-Pacific
Accenture Pte Ltd.